#BlackFair protesters march northbound on Snelling Avenue toward the State Fair. Photo by Iris Perez / Fox 9.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A crowd gathered at Hamline Park in St. Paul, Minn. for a Black Lives Matter protest and march to the Minnesota State Fair. Organizers expected as many as 800 protesters to join Saturday's demonstration, and about 200 had gathered by 11 a.m. to review de-escalation procedures and safety measures. View photos from the march at http://www.fox9.com/news/13497212-gallery.
At about 11:45 a.m., the group started to march, eventually turning onto Snelling Avenue toward their ultimate destination of the fairgrounds. The group plans to rally and listen to speakers, then sit down in the street in a peaceful protest.
"I know a lot of people have been writing racist comments and threatening to shoot us up there," said organizer Rashad Turner. "We are taking all safety precautions. St. Paul police are committed to protecting us."
Reason for #BlackFair protest
Black Lives Matter does not plan to go inside the fair, but part of their goal is to affect the profits of the fair. Organizers believe not enough State Fair booths are awarded to black business owners. They’re also using the visibility of the Minnesota State Fair to protest violence and various issues plaguing black Minnesotans.
“It's a triple bottom line,” said Turner. “We want the people going to the State Fair to be safe, we want the marchers with young families and children to be safe, and we want the general public to be safe. That is what our main focus has been.”
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Will they get arrested?
Black Lives Matter organizers told Fox 9 the city had promised no one will be arrested, but St. Paul police insist no such conversation happened.
The St. Paul branch of Black Lives Matter was not associated with the holiday season sit-in at Mall of America, or the march that blocked Interstate 35W on Dec. 4, 2014.
Minnesota State Fair statement
"Black Lives Matter announced a plan to conduct a protest at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 on Snelling Avenue. They do not intend to protest on the fairgrounds. State Fair police and staff are working diligently to ensure the safety of all and to make Saturday as safe and enjoyable as every other day at the fair.
The State Fair has a very large and comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that covers a myriad of situations from accidents to weather related incidents. One of the dozens of situations in the Emergency Management Plan under the broader category of human incidents is street demonstrations. The fair has a regulation that prohibits bannering, picketing and interfering on the grounds, and we are well prepared to handle demonstrations here. Our Public Safety staff of more than 300 is outstanding and works closely with local police, along with regional and national law enforcement to coordinate efforts and ensure the safety of all on and off the fairgrounds.
On Saturday, we will keep fair visitors informed of traffic or pedestrian delays to the fairgrounds via our website and social media channels."